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Friday, March 8, 2013

Civil War Photo Friday: Soldier in the Indian Home Guard

During the Civil War, the Indian Territory (modern Oklahoma) was as divided as the rest of the nation. Many Native American leaders hoped to get a better deal from the Confederacy than the years of lies and broken treaties the Federal government had given them, so at the beginning of the war much of the Indian Territory joined with the rebellion.

Some remained faithful to the Union, but after a series of defeats they had to flee to Kansas in the middle of the winter, on what the refugees called "the trail of blood on the ice." From these refugees the Federal government recruited men to create three Indian Home Guard units. This guy, whose name is now sadly lost, was one of them.

The Indian regiments faced prejudice from white civilians and soldiers. They were commanded by white officers and were required by law only to fight in the Indian Territory. That they did. Starting in the summer of 1862 the Indian Home Guard fought to retake their homes. The Confederate Indians never got many supplies from the resource-strapped Confederacy and support for the rebellion waned. By the end of 1863, most of the territory was back in Union hands.

Fighting continued until the very end, however, and the land was laid waste. An untold number of civilians died of exposure, disease, and starvation.

For a snapshot of the other side of the conflict, check out my post on the Cherokee Confederate reunion of 1903.

Photo courtesy National Park Service.


  1. I think this issue of the Native Americans, more than any other, exposes the not-as-humane as they claimed reasons for the North to make their stand. I mean I will always believe fighting against slavery was right, but the treatment of the Native Americans was SO BAD. The racism in the west lasted... STILL lasts... so long, too. My grandpa used to use terms about Native Americans that just made me cringe, but it was how he grew up. Interesting slice of history here.

    1. Living in Arizona in the 1990s I heard those same comments. Racism is perhaps more deeply rooted in the Southwest than the Deep South.

  2. You don't often think about Native Americans being in the war, but it affected them as well.

  3. I grew up in Oklahoma and only met a few full-blooded Native Americans. One of them was the last of the Wahpepah tribe. She kept her last name on being married, and her kids were named Harris-Wahpepah, just so the tribe wouldn't die out immediately.


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